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Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

Harlingen, TX
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Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

Hi, Friends -

Here is some current information regarding my very recent vacation to the Corn Islands, Nicaragua. I hope this information is very helpful for anyone considering visiting that location:

1) I used the 2009 Lonely Planet: Nicaragua guidebook.

2) I stayed at Hotel InterContinental for two non-consecutive nights in Managua, and at Arenas Beach Hotel for six consecutive nights on Big Corn Island. My positive reviews of those hotels should be posted by TripAdvisor shortly.

3) At the Managua airport, you will have to buy a tourist card from the immigration officer for US$10. If your money has any rips or tears or writing on the bill, the officer will hand the money back to you and ask for a newer bill.

4) Random passport checks are conducted by an immigration officer at the Managua airport when waiting to board the La Costena flight to Big Corn Island. The officer also checks passports when arriving on the La Costena flight from Big Corn Island in Managua.

5) Before boarding the La Costena flight to Big Corn Island, you will have to pay a transportation tax of US$2 at the window immediately before the security screening.

6) US Dollars are accepted everywhere on the Corn Islands. Remember to bring small denominations ($1/$5/$10) as most purchases fall within that range. Large denominations ($20/$50/$100) will be difficult to make change for when purchasing most items.

7) 20 Cordoba of Nicaragua = US$1. It is very likely that you will make a purchase with US Dollars and receive Cordobas as change.

8) If you eat at only one restaurant on Big Corn Island, make sure it is Comedor Maris, also known as Danet's. Order a "rundown" of lobster, shrimp, AND fish for an authentic Caribbean meal.

9) Another excellent restaurant is located at Casa Canada. However, Seva's, Fisher's Caves, and Picnic Center served so-so meals.

10) I received many mosquito and sand fly bites on my feet and legs on the Corn Islands, especially around dusk and dawn. I did not use any insect repellant.

11) Power outages (both planned and unplanned) on Big Corn Island occurred about once a day, and lasted between 15 minutes and 2 hours.

12) The hotel known as Anastasia's on Big Corn Island closed about a year ago. Interpol is currently searching for the owner, who has sold the property seven different times to seven different people in a land fraud scheme.

13) Visit George Morgan's house on Big Corn Island for an AMAZING view of a beautiful beach. To arrange this visit, contact Saul the taxi driver, who works with Arenas Beach Hotel.

14) You will be able to buy liquor, food, and some toiletries from the many pulperias (stores) on the Corn Islands. The most well-stocked pulperia on Big Corn Island appeared to be Forbes Commercial Center, located adjacent to the airport runway.

15) You can find great sweet coco bread, referred to as the "bun" by the locals on Big Corn Island, at Sandra's next to the El Isleno store, almost directly across the runway from the Forbes Commercial Center. The sweet "bun" comes hot out of the oven at 3:30pm in the afternoon.

16) Your taxi driver on Big Corn Island may stop along the way and pick up other passengers while he is taking you to your destination. Do not panic, this is normal.

17) On Saturday and Sunday, watch baseball games at the Karen Tucker Stadium on Big Corn Island. Admission, and beverages, are US$1.

18) Visit Nico's on Thursday, Crabbies on Friday, Reggae Palace on Saturday, and Island Style on Sunday to drink, dance, and socialize with the locals. CAUTION: You WILL be offered drugs and prostitutes at some of these locations, especially at Reggae Palace. Watch out for a man named Tyrone (has dreadlocks) and a man who goes by the name of Joseph or Wayne (has facial scars and three gold teeth). They are known troublemakers and will likely approach you to offer drugs or hookers or to take you on a tour of Big Corn Island.

19) Arrive at the airport on Big Corn Island by 2pm if you have a 3:40pm La Costena flight to Managua, or your seat may be sold to someone else even if you already have a reservation.

20) You will have to pay a US$2 transportation tax to leave the Big Corn Island airport on a flight to the mainland.

21) You will have to pay a 3 Cordoba transportation tax at the gate of the main dock on Big Corn Island to board the panga (boat) to Little Corn Island.

22) Sit in the FRONT of the panga if you do not want to get wet on the ride to Little Corn Island.

23) On the Corn Islands, you will notice incredible poverty among the locals when you explore beyond the resorts. Keep this in mind when tipping your waiter/waitress or taxi driver.

24) And last but not least: TALK TO THE LOCAL PEOPLE! Go into town, away from the resort, and MEET THEM!

Dolphin Dive
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San Francisco...
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1. Re: Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

I read your review of Arenas beach - funny about them "planning on doing renovations to the property later this year" - they were cosed and doing renovations when I was on BCI in December 2009.

Harlingen, TX
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2. Re: Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

Sean420 -

One of the Arenas Beach Hotel employees admitted to me that it's difficult to find workers who are available to do renovations. If that's the case, they may be doing renovations for quite a while once they get started!

I think they were closed in December 2009 because they were hosting the Italian or Spanish version of Survivor, which was apparently being filmed in the nearby Pearl Keys. Rumors have it that additional Survivors will be held in the future.

Bucharest, Romania
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3. Re: Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

I'm planning to go on Corn Island for a couple of days in the last week of November. Is it OK to travel there on your own? Did you make a hotel reservation in advance or on the spot? What do you recommend as day activities while there?

Thanks!

PS: Excellent review, excellent and useful details!

Harlingen, TX
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4. Re: Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

Oltraz -

Thanks for the compliment. I couldn't find much information about the Corn Islands here on TripAdvisor, so I made sure to take a lot of notes while I was there on vacation.

It's perfectly fine to travel to the Corn Islands by yourself (I did). You will meet other solo travelers there, too (I did). Just be open and friendly and maybe you can hang out with your new friends while you're there (I did).

I made a hotel reservation in advance, and I suggest you do, too. The staff at Hotel Casa Canada on Big Corn Island told me they are completely booked for the month of December. I'm not sure how booked the hotels are on Little Corn Island. The tourist season just got started down there so things will probably be busy from now through May.

There isn't a tremendous amount of activities on the Corn Islands. If you like snorkeling and diving, there are businesses on both islands who will take you to do that. Go to the baseball games at the local stadium on Big Corn Island on the weekend. Eat some of the local foods (rundown, sweet bun) made by the locals. Rent a bicycle or golf cart and take a spin around Big Corn Island. Take the panga over to Little Corn Island and have a drink or meal and spend the night or more.

Happy Travels!

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

Great Review, thank you!

The Taxi part freaks me out as the you read everywhere (even the US Embassy site) to never allow other passenger you do not know in....are they offended if you decline or forbid another passenger? How did you handle it on your first time?

I am traveling solo as well, and being a small guy, trying to be prepared for any and all scenarios. Looking to be informed so that I can enjoy the trip and adventure of a lifetime!

Harlingen, TX
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6. Re: Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

TMCHF -

Keep in mind that the US Embassy/State Department website suffers from "Chicken Little Syndrome." It tends to overhype the scams and dangers that Americans MAY encounter when they visit foreign countries in an effort to cover THEIR butt!

I'm not 100% sure, but I think the taxi scam that they're hyping (multiple people getting into a taxi and holding vacationers at knifepoint while their credit and debit cards are maxed out) tends to happen in Managua and in other cities on the mainland of Nicaragua. The Corn Islands are VERY different. The demographic tends to be an African/Creole English speaking one, as opposed to the mainland which tends to be Hispanic and Spanish speaking.

That being said, if you are genuinely concerned about other passengers getting into your taxi on Big Corn Island, simply tell the driver in English that you don't want him to stop and pick up other passengers. You might get a few funny looks and asked why, and your answer will probably take longer to explain than it will be to get to your destination! Keep in mind that Big Corn Island is relatively small. If a rogue taxi driver and a couple of his buddies WERE to kidnap you, there sure as heck isn't a lot of places to go, especially to spend their new-found wealth (your money!).

If you're concerned that your small stature might make you a target when you go on vacation, consider this: I'm 6 feet tall, and I STILL had a 5 foot tall fake police officer in Bogota, Colombia try to pull a scam on me on the street in broad daylight in front of a crowded church!

Finally, how did I handle another person getting into "my" taxi on Big Corn Island? Simple: With a smile. I think the other passenger was a school girl on the way home for lunch in between classes. :-)

Edmonton, Canada
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7. Re: Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

Taxis on Corn Island are shared taxis by nature; it's just the way it works. The fare is fixed and incredibly low for anywhere on the island. And the low fare reflects the fact the driver may earn several fares on a single loop around the island. Think of it as a small bus, one that passes by every minute or two.

Expecting a private ride for the price of a shared one would be unfair to the driver.

Chicago, Illinois
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8. Re: Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

I understand now....it's like in Culebra, Puerto Rico. Island life. Thanks for all the info =)

9. Re: Just Back From Corn Islands: November 11, 2010

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